Footballer Hakeem al Araibi, who fled Bahrain in 2014 and was later granted asylum in Australia, faces extradition to his homeland Bahrain, where he thinks he will face torture and even death.
Hakeem al Araibi, a refugee footballer fighting extradition to Bahrain, on Monday arrived in shackles at a court in Thailand's capital, Bangkok.
“Please, don't send me to Bahrain,” Araibi told the court, which extended his detention by another two months.
Araibi, who is also an Australian resident, does not want to return to his homeland Bahrain because he fears torture and even death.
His situation is similar to that of Rahaf Mohammed al Qunun, a Saudi woman who grabbed international attention last week after she barricaded herself in a Bangkok airport hotel room to resist being sent home to her family.
She was later taken by Canada after the UN High Commission on Refugees granted her refugee status.
Hakeem al Araibi was convicted in absentia on charges of vandalising a police station in Bahrain.
He says he was out of the country playing in a match at the time of the alleged offence.
However, Araibi has said he believes he is being targeted over his criticism of Asian Football Confederation (AFC) president Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim al Khalifa, a member of Bahrain's ruling family.
Araibi was stopped at Bahrain's request at a Bangkok airport in November when he arrived in Thailand for his honeymoon. He has been held in detention since then as Thai courts decide whether to send him back to the Gulf state.
Former Australian football captain Craig Foster along with a group who has been campaigning for Araibi’s release were present at the court to lend support to the embattled player.
"Your wife sends her love! Hakeem, Australia is with you, mate," Foster shouted.
The court said Araibi would be given 60 days to object to the extradition request and would need to present his case in April, when the judges reconvene.
Foster, who leads the protests for Araibi’s freedom, said the case was politically motivated and represented "retribution from Bahrain to Hakeem."
"We continue to call on the Thai prime minister to show some mercy .... Don't be pushed around by Bahrain and just let him go home," he said.
The case has also drawn appeals from Australia’s prime minister and soccer’s world governing body, FIFA.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has previously called on his Thai counterpart to release the 25-year-old, saying that returning him to Bahrain would infringe on his rights under international law.
"We are asking the prime minister to allow Hakeem al Araibi to return to Australia," Australian ambassador-designate Allan McKinnon reiterated outside the court, adding that representatives of 15 other countries were present to observe the proceedings.
Thailand, on the other hand, says the judiciary will decide the fate of Araibi.
"Even though he has refugee status from Australia, there is an official extradition request from Bahrain, which has to go through our judicial process," Virasakdi Futrakul told Reuters.
"We do not use political decision in this matter," he added. "The government will not interfere with the judiciary."
The court gave the defence team until April 5 to submit documents opposing the extradition, and set April 22 for a preliminary hearing of witnesses and evidence.